Last year, DX Street, the online-marketing firm Ben Hordell co-founded, traded its fashionable Soho offices for gold—New Jersey’s so-called Gold Coast, a strip along the Hudson River that runs from Edgewater Cliffs south to Bayonne. The move was strictly business; Hordell loved living in the West Village. But as he ferried between Manhattan and Edgewater and watched towers pop up on the Jersey side like Legos, and saw billboards touting condos “on the water with Manhattan views in the $400,000s,” he started to wonder. “I love the neighborhood, but it’s a space thing. We have a bedroom that’s eight feet by seven. The full-size bed touches three walls,” he grumbles. Soon, says Hordell, a move to Edgewater may not just be a possibility—it may well be his goal.
“That river’s huge, but it’s getting narrower all the time,” says Doug Fenichel of K. Hovnanian Homes, the biggest developer remaking the area. Lennar Homes and Roseland Property are also major players. About fifteen new projects have popped up in the past year and a half. At premium prices, too: $500 to $1,000 per square foot for luxury units in buildings stocked with amenities (plus parking!), about half the going rate for comparable apartments in town. Since the ferry terminal opened in May 2006, Fenichel says he’s “seeing a lot more interest from across the river.” In some projects, like Vista Pointe and Grandview II, the number of city expats is up 20 percent.
No wonder developers are scrambling to make the newcomers feel welcome, offering what they call “Tribeca-style” or “Soho-style” finishes and expanding ground-floor retail so residents can shop on foot. They’re also offering incentives to city brokers—higher commissions, $5,000 American Express gift certificates— to entice them across the river. Halstead’s executive director of development marketing, Stephen Kliegerman, thinks the strategy makes sense but stops short of calling New Jersey buildings competition. “I don’t think they’re luring people away from Manhattan unless they want to be lured,” he says. Indeed, says broker Michele Kleier, being so-close-yet-so-far may actually be a liability. “You’re always going to see those views and be frustrated you’re not in the city,” she says. “It’s like being on a diet and walking past ice-cream stores constantly.”